The new Oaks Restaurant and Grill is taking some cues from the location's former life as the Blethering Place, where a British theme once reigned.
Bangers and mash, a British staple, is one of the dinner entrees. Priced at $15, it is served with beef gravy and mushy peas.
"Mixing the old with the new," said Isa Hosein, who partnered with Nick Hopkins to open the Oaks on Nov. 11. The Oaks is striving to become a community gathering point for customers wanting "premium family dining with a price point that [allows] you to come here are much as you want," said Hopkins.
Hosein adds: "It's all about value for money."
The 110-seat restaurant is open daily, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Menu items include eggs benedict at $11.95, butternut squash soup at $5.85, a salad of spinach and beets at $11, burgers, pizza and and sandwiches. There's a kid's menu and some gluten-free products. A staff of 25, including chef Darcey Smith, has been hired to work the eatery, at 2250 Oak Bay Ave.
Many diners remember the Blethering Place Tea Room and Restaurant, an Oak Bay Village mainstay in the location for 35 years.
Owner Ken Agate closed in early 2011. It was followed by the Oak Bay Bistro, led by Bart Reed, owner of the Beagle Pub and the Moka House in Cook Street Village. The Bistro closed in August. Reed said more time would have been needed to make it work financially. A supper club followed briefly, but didn't last.
Hosein and Hopkins took possession of the leased space in October and gave it a "full face lift." It has been painted and upgraded. They spent 120 hours sanding and finishing the wooden wall, Hopkins said.
The owners, both 27, first met in Grade 9 in Calgary and became friends a few years later. Hopkins went on to study cooking at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary. After working as a cook, he moved to Victoria at age 20.
While still based here, Hopkins launched George Ross Catering six years ago to provide food services to industries operating in remote locations. The company now has about 200 staff serving "five-star quality" meals to a range of clients in the Northwest Territories and northern B.C. and Alberta. Hopkins stepped down as manager of the catering company and remains a part-owner.
He was looking for a new venture when he spotted an ad for the Oak Bay restaurant and urged Hosein to move to Victoria. Hosein readily agreed. He's been keen about sailing for years and now moors a 28-foot sailboat nearby.
Hosein started early in the restaurant business. He was a toddler when his father bought the Caribbean Palace in Toronto, where the family lived. He rolled rotis, worked the cash register, doing whatever was necessary. "I think it has always been part of who I am."
An entrepreneur at age 19, he started a business in Calgary: Anything delivered, 24-7. "It was just me and my Toyota Corolla."
Hosein graduated from Mohawk College in Hamilton and pursued a career as a recruiter. Clients included Hopkins' catering firm.
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